Japan celebrates during a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match against Germany at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Brad Smith | ISI Photos | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
Japan stunned Germany with a late comeback in their World Cup opener, with goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano seeing them win 2-1 at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Japan had never beaten their European opponents before, but they took advantage of German mistakes and missed opportunities to secure a famous victory in the first match of Group E.
Striker Thomas Muller said after the game: “It is ridiculous that we are here with a defeat. We played a good game over long periods, but a game is also characterized by the chances that you convert into goals.”
Japan also had an early ‘goal’ by Daizen Maeda disallowed for offside, but Hansi Flick’s side quickly took the lead after a clumsy challenge from goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda on David Raum earned them a penalty and Ilkay Gundogan pushed home from the spot (33).
Germany thought they had scored a second goal at the end of the first half, but a goal by Kai Havertz was also disallowed for offside.
The four-time World Cup winners continued to see opportunities come and go – Gundogan hit the post on the hour mark – before Japan used their lightning-fast attack to score twice late.
Did you know?
- Germany has not lost a World Cup match at half-time since 1978.
Four minutes after coming on as a substitute, Doan (75) turned from close range after a save from Manuel Neuer. Germany were then caught with a ball over the top, allowing Asano (83) to smuggle the ball home at a tight angle.
Ritsu Doan of Japan scores their first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match against Germany at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Marc Atkins | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
Every Japanese goal was greeted with a team bundle at the corner flag and there were full-time joyful celebrations. “It is a big surprise. We saw the Saudi victory over Argentina – the Asian countries reach the global standard,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu.
Germany’s poor World Cup form continues after finishing bottom of their group at the 2018 tournament.
How Japan won a famous victory
Japan started brightly and had the ball in the net within seven minutes. Gundogan was muscled off the ball in midfield before Junya Ito drove down the right flank. Maeda then fired in his cross, but it was offside by a metre.
Germany soon started to get on their feet and had a series of chances after 20 minutes. Joshua Kimmich saw his effort thwarted from distance by Gonda before Gundogan skied the rebound. The Man City midfielder then saw an attempt go straight for Gonda before another attempt was well blocked a minute later.
Great moments in the game…
- 7th min: Maeda’s early goal disallowed for offside.
- 32nd min: Germany are awarded a penalty after a foul by Gonda on Raum, scored by Gündogan.
- 45+3 min: Havertz’s goal was also disallowed for offside.
- 61st min: Gundogan sees his effort hit the post.
- 75th min: Doan scores the equalizer for Japan shortly after coming on as a substitute.
- 83rd min: Asano scores the winner for Japan on a long ball over the top.
But for all Gonda’s good work in the first half hour, his shoddy goalkeeping then gave Germany a penalty as he raced towards Raum, tipping him over before catching the defender again and nearly landing on top of him.
After blocking two previous attempts, Gundogan stepped up and skillfully sent his penalty kick to see the four-time World Cup winners up front.
Germany then began to dominate and thought they added a second in the third minute of four at the end of the first half. Havertz hit after a cross from Serge Gnabry, but after a VAR check, the goal was rightly rejected for offside.
Japan could have made the end of the first half even more interesting, but Maeda’s header went just wide of goal.
Takuma Asano of Japan scores their team’s second goal past Manuel Neuer of Germany during a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
It was an end-to-end start to the second half and Gundogan should have added another on the hour mark. The impressive Jamal Musiala drove to the left before putting the midfielder down from 15 yards out. However, Gundogan’s effort hit the underside of the post and went wide. In the 70th minute, Gonda also denied Jonas Hoffman and Gnabry in quick succession.
But Japan’s comeback was ahead, with Neuer’s first save of the game soon after, denying Asano. He also made another great stop during the run-up to Japan’s equaliser, getting a hand on Takumi Minamino’s comeback, but Doan lurked in the area to slide in from close range.
However, Neuer would have liked to do better for Japan’s winner. A long ball over the top to the right picked up Asano behind the defence, as the forward pushed into the area. He stopped Nico Schlotterbeck before squeezing the ball past the goalkeeper into the far corner.
It was a frenzied end to the match as Germany pressed for an equaliser. Leon Goretzka fired a volley wide of the post as Neuer moved forward to take care of another body in the area, but it proved ineffective. Each evacuation was celebrated as a goal by the Japanese bench as they held on to the crucial three points.
Germany cover mouths at protest for freedom of expression before kick-off | Minister wears OneLove bracelet
Before kick-off, German players covered their mouths in their team photo in an apparent protest against freedom of expression.
It came after a number of European football associations were threatened with FIFA sanctions if they wore a ‘OneLove’ bracelet during the World Cup.
The DFB later tweeted about the gesture, saying: “With our captaincy, we wanted to set an example for the values we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect.
“Be loud with other nations. This is not about a political message: human rights are non-negotiable. That should go without saying. But unfortunately it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us. Forbidding us from the bandage is like forbidding our mouth. Our attitude stands.”
German Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser also wore a OneLove armband during the match after FIFA threatened sports sanctions for wearing the armband.
Flick and Neuer admit: We’re under pressure
Germany manager Hansi Flick:
“With this defeat and zero points we are under pressure, there is no doubt about that. We can only blame ourselves. It is a big disappointment.”
“We were on the right track in the first half, had 78 percent possession and were leading 1-0. Then we had good chances in the second half that we didn’t use.
“Japan was just more efficient today. We made mistakes that we should never make, especially in a World Cup and those are the things we need to improve on.”
German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer:
“I’m totally frustrated and angry that we let this game slip, it wasn’t necessary. After the break we couldn’t control this game anymore and we didn’t play with the same confidence as in the first half.
“We’re under pressure from the start now. That was also the most important game of how you start in a tournament, but we screwed up.”
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu:
“We wanted to play aggressively, we wanted to dominate the game. But Germany is very strong, so we had to defend persistently and take our chances.
“At the end they came at us with full force, in the past we might have lost, but the players have played in Germany and Europe, they learned so much from that, so we persevered.
“United as one, we had to hold on until the final whistle and take our chance.”
Experts: ‘A huge shock’
Gary Neville from Sky Sports on ITV:
“Definitely, I expected Germany to win that game. It’s a huge shock. Japan isn’t sulking, but it just shows that if you’re not quite there, you’re in for a big surprise. What surprised me at the second goal was Manuel Neuer twisting his body to get the ball past him.
“Most of the time, Neuer is strong and a brilliant goalkeeper. The result will send a shock wave through the tournament.”
Graeme Souness from Sky Sports on ITV:
“It’s an almighty blow. If you’re a coach, and if you’re the Spanish manager, the result has partially filled his team talk.” [against Costa Rica]. He’ll remind them they could slip tonight unless they capitalize on it.’
Roy Keane from Sky Sports on ITV:
“Of course the result doesn’t just come out of the blue, but when you play against Germany – we talked about them learning from the mistakes of the past in the last World Cup – you are 1-0 behind.
“It’s a long way back and so the [Japan] manager deserves huge praise. He had to make those changes and it was part of his game plan because he had to brush things up.
“They were clinical. There were question marks about Neuer for the second goal, but you can’t begrudge them their win.
“There was never any doubt that they would bring the spirit, the fight and the energy to the party, but they have shown intelligence and great quality.
“Often you see substitutes who are not aware of the game, but they all had an impact to cheer up their teammates around them. They all had an impact on the game.
“They have lifted their country.”
What does the result mean?
After the first two matches of group E, Germany is third Spain beat Costa Rica 7-0 later on Wednesday. Japan is second behind the 2010 winners.
Both teams play again on Saturday as Germany take on Spain – which was seen as a shootout for first and second spots in the group, but Germany would now be on the verge of exit if they lose – while Japan take on Costa Rica.
The final group matches on Thursday, December 1 will see Germany take on Costa Rica, while Spain take on Japan, who hope to create another upset against one of Europe’s most successful sides.
Opta Stats — Japan’s Historic Victory
- Japan came from behind to win a World Cup match for the first time ever, after drawing twice and losing 11 of their 13 matches when they were down earlier today.
- After losing only one of the first 18 World Cup tournaments (W13 D4), Germany has lost the first game of each of the last two World Cups.
- Through Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano, Japan became the first team to have two substitutes score in one World Cup match against Germany.
- Since 1966, only Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi in 2006 (10 against Brazil) has made more saves in one World Cup match for Japan than the eight Shuichi Gonda today.
Player of the Match — Jamal Musiala
He may have been on the losing team, but Germany’s Musiala lit up the Khalifa International Stadium. He showed excellent skill all the way, especially in the second half, and he is about to have a breakaway tournament in Qatar.